Hiring Expert Shares Insight into Conducting Successful Phone Interviews

As technology continues to advance, so does the hiring process. More employers are turning away from old practices in favor of newer, digital initiatives that provide jobseekers with the experience they want and expect.

Phone interviews have emerged as one of the best ways to screen candidates in a globally connected world. However, there are some things recruiters and hiring managers should focus on in order to conduct a successful phone interview.

Darchelle Nass, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative at Addison Group, shares her expert insights on the effects of body language in phone interviews and offers tips for recruiters, hiring managers, and jobseekers who are looking to conduct phone interviews for the first time.

“HR professionals and hiring managers often choose to make the first meeting with a potential new employee over the phone. If you’ve conducted a dozen or more of these calls, you’ve likely experienced muffled responses, interruption or an awkward silence that leaves you wondering if you are the only one left on the line,” says Nass in an e-mail to Recruiting Daily Advisor. “It is important to consider the factors that could contribute to a less than productive phone conversation and set the structure for both parties to be successful.”

“After a brief personal interaction, setting the structure for the call will ensure that the agenda is clear and agreed upon. If there are challenges with the connection or volume, now is the time to be up front about it,” Nass says. “It is difficult to develop an unbiased assessment of a candidate when you are straining to hear every third word being spoken. Once the logistics are established, you are ready to dig in and assess both the candidate’s skills and body language in comparison to the requirements of the role.”

Body Language

Generally, when conducting in-person interviews, body language can make or break a candidate’s chances with your company. However, when conducting interviews over the phone, it is extremely difficult to gauge body language. Nass offers the following three things to focus on in a phone interview, to determine a candidate’s body language:

The confidence and poise. “Face to face, an interviewer will interpret upright posture with shoulders back and chin raised as confidence and poise,” says Nass. “On the phone, listening for crisp answers with a steady pace can indicate the same. Muffled or less powerful projection can indicate that an individual is hunched over or leaning down.”

Energy and positivity. Meeting in person, the energy of an individual and a smile can be seen quickly.  However, when it comes to conversations over the phone,” Nass says that you can hear energy in the pace of the conversation. A slow or lethargic pace may indicate lower energy levels. “The smile can be heard in any conversation, says Nass. “An individual with a smile projects more clear sound waves. Weak or less than clear words can signify that an individual isn’t smiling. You can hear it clearly when a candidate smiles!”

Engagement. “It’s simple when conversations are face-to-face, you see if someone is engaged in a conversation. Eye contact and body cues make this clear quickly. Over the phone, this can be a bit trickier and requires some discipline on the part of the interviewer,” says Nass. “You may be tempted to interpret a longer pause as lack of engagement when the person on the other end of the line is just nodding in agreement.”

Nass suggests listening for signs that the interviewee is not “making eye contact” over the phone, which can include monotone answers or interactions that are not consistent with the conversation.

“In the competitive candidate market, it is important to read these cues and also to give a candidate the benefit of the doubt, especially if the role being screened for does not require frequent phone interaction,” advises Nass. “Individuals may have different levels of experience in this type of interview and have varying levels of comfort.”

Phone interviews can be difficult for both parties involved, but by using the tips Nass has listed above, recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals will be better equipped at conducting phone interviews in the future. In part two of this article, Nass will discuss best practices for helping jobseekers ace phone interviews. In a follow-up post, Nass will offer tips on getting candidates to take your calls.

By: Melissa Blazejak